Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Guest Post: What price t'union?

I've asked a few folks to write a couple of guest posts over the next couple of weeks. This one is from fellow blogger Arnie Craven, formerly of The Right Student and now writing a solo project at Another Brilliant Blog. He's a Yorkshireman, a Unionist and a Twit too. A unionist writing on a nationalist leaning blog... what is the world coming to!

From what I can gather, Malc and I share a lot of common ground, politically. Look at his political compass result, mine was exactly the same. Reading his posts, I don't find a lot to disagree with. As such, when he asked me to write a guest blog, I had to think long and hard about what to discuss. I didn't want you to think you were reading one of his blogs, after all.

Eventually it dawned on me though, I was an English unionist and I had been asked to post on a Scottish nationalist's blog. Really there was only one thing I could talk about.

I believe in the union. But I also believe that, the way we are going, the union is destined to end in divorce. A pessmistic view, you might think. But I have to look at what the SNP have achieved in Scotland, and when I do look I see something quite extraordinary. Something made all the more extraordinary by the fact that it is hidden in plain sight.

Perhaps this sounds a bit cryptic, but that is my point exactly. Unless you really pay attention, you don't see it. The best way to explain is by studying the remarks made by someone who should be leading the fight against Scottish nationalism, Jim Murphy, in
The Scotsman:

"For the Scottish banks it was Britain or Bust. The recapitalising of the banks cost £50 billion – that's £10,000 for every man, woman and child in Scotland. And the Asset Protection Scheme..which equates to six times the annual value of the Scottish economy...In a global economy there is nowhere to hide. The best protection is integration into a strong economy."

I ask you, on what is his argument focused? If you follow the link, you will see he devotes a couple of words to monarchy, embassies, things like that. But ultimately, it is all economics. And that is what is so amazing about what the SNP have done, they have come to completely dominate the Scottish political discourse.

Unionists are dancing to the SNP's tune. Could Iain Gray better Alex Salmond in a debate on economics? No, and it would be a waste of time trying. More than that, who can get enthused about the union when political leaders, who claim to support its continuation, allow themselves to be restricted to an economic debate? The SNP have the economics and they have 'freedom!', and people like that. If I were a Scot, I would.

Unless unionists regain control of the political debate, I see no way back. The march foward of Scottish nationalism will become irreversible. I give it maybe five, ten years. But when the economy picks up again, what will the unionists have to offer?

I believe in the union because I believe the Scots and the English have more in common than we don't. Sure, our accents are a bit different, and yes we do slightly different things at Christmas. But we are the same people, really. When I am in Scotland, do I feel like I am in a foreign country? Absolutely not. In fact, I feel more at home in Edinburgh than I do in London. If Scotland becomes independent, we will start to drift apart. It is a natural product of not having any civic nationalism to bind us together. Perhaps it might not happen straight away, but it will eventually come. Just look at the Irish Republic.

I like not feeling like a foreigner in Edinburgh, and I hope Scots don't feel like foreigners when they go to Berwick. Lets hope that wont change.


Jeanne Tomlin 21 October 2009 at 18:45  

An intelligent and interesting post. As an American, I am always relieved to see that because the bile on the internet and in newspapers/ BBC from the unionists toward Scotland has alarmed me.

However, let me mention this. I could say exactly the same thing that you did about Scotland and I happen to be from Portland, OR.

Sure, our accents are a bit different, and yes we do slightly different things at Christmas. But we are the same people, really. When I am in Scotland, do I feel like I am in a foreign country?

No. Does that mean that Scotland should become a 51st state? I think you would, correctly, argue no.

Mind you, I think that is, indeed, at least part of the best argument for the union and one that unionists seldom bother to make. The Scots and the English and the Welsh have lived, worked and fought side by side in a union since 1707. Many feel that they belong together in the same country.

It's not a question that any outsider has a right to put forward an answer to, most especially a pushy American. However, it is time and past time that the Scots were given the chance to decide their constitutional status for themselves. (But then I'd say the same for certain parts of the US although most Americans disagree. =) )

I think that may be something with which you agree. I hope so.

oldnat 21 October 2009 at 18:47  


Interesting post. On the BBC's "Blether with Brian" we keep asking people to come on and argue for the Union. For you it seems to come down to not wanting to feel a stranger in Edinburgh.

Do you feel a stranger in Douglas, or St Peter's Port? Neither of these have ever been part of the UK. It's not political union that seems to be the issue for you.

Cruachan 21 October 2009 at 21:09  


Thanks for a good post.

The minute we start to see and hear Unionist parties making a coherent and positive case for the Union, then those of us who support independence have something to worry about.

The fact is that the London-controlled parties, and Labour in particular are in a daze about how the nature of the debate about Scotland and the future of the current UK has shifted, particularly since 2007.

The game has changed and they just don't get it. (Or they do get it and don't want to play!)

I respect the points you make and that you are in favour of the Union because:

1. We've got some things in common
2.Edinburgh feels like home.
3.You hope it doesn't change.

What you haven't done is to set out your views on the positive benefits (for Scotland)of the Union.

Independence is coming. Whether it is in 2 years, 5 years or 20 years, it will happen.

It seems clear that you also realise it is inevitable. Why not embrace that,and actively engage with the debates about a new post-UK order for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Think of the possibilities and new choices to be made.

I am sure that you (and I, who currently live in England) will still be very welcome in Edinburgh or Berwick or Lochgilphead. But the welcome will be from a country that has taken responsibility for its own affairs and its own decisions.

Arnie 21 October 2009 at 22:46  

Thanks for the feedback guys. I did want to say a lot more about maintaining the union, but you have to be very careful with blog posts, mine was pretty much as long as you can get before a lot of people think 'too long, wont read'.

Jeanne: I completely agree. Arguing against a referendum is absolutely absurd. If I were a Scot, it would push me towards the SNP.

Oldnat: Like I said above, I wanted to say more, but didn't want it to become a mini-essay. I do fully accept your point. But I would argue that the civic nationalism created by shared institutions increases the feeling of togetherness, so the social union derives from the political union. And for what its worth I found Douglas very strange.

Cruachan: There is an element of not liking the change. But I tend to believe Britain is stronger than the sum of its parts. What I don't like the most, though, is now independence would place a dividing line between two parts of Britain. I appreciate British nationalism is very unfashionable (and with a certain Mr Brown pushing it, I can fully understand why), but as much as England and Scotland are two seperate nations, Britain is also one nation. National division just seems like a bad idea.

Cruachan 22 October 2009 at 08:47  

Why not ask Malc for another post, setting out exactly why you think the Union is such a good idea (for Scotland) - other than " I just feel Britain is greater than the sum of its parts".
Or put in on your blog.

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